Sunday, 31 May 2009

new products

Ethereal lacy flowers in candy colours, squidgy, bold knitted beads and butter soft lambswool scarves up on my website shop coming soon...

Thursday, 28 May 2009

hats, hats, hats!

It was second time lucky with my trip to Stephen Jones' Hats:an Anthology at Victoria and Albert museum today - the exhibition was closed when I got there earlier in the month. I am very pleased that I tried again and visited this afternoon as it was absolutely fantastic in every way. The V&A is my favourite museum for many reasons, the standard of their exhibits obviously being the most important one, and this exhibition rates amongst the best I have seen.
Stephen Jones refers to hats as the 'ultimate accessory' and until I had seen his curation of this exhibition, I admit I did not agree, being much more of a shoe gal myself! However, he has almost swayed me to his way of thinking; a hat can be more theatrical and beautiful than I ever thought.
The layout assists the air of originality, drama and beauty. Jones' own work is stunning, and he has chosen fabulous pieces by other designers past and present to compliment these, assembled not in a stuffy chronological fashion, but according to style and theme, with the four main themes being Inspiration, Creation, The Client and The Salon.

The Inspiration theme looks at diverse creative simulae and my highlight was discovering that Jones based the anthology on the V&A's first fashion exhibition. This was curated by Cecile Beaton, whose designs for My Fair Lady were a great inspiration to Jones. Bonnets Audrey Hepburn wore in the film, Julie Andrews wore in the play and some theatrical and unforgettable hats from the film's Ascot scene are displayed alongside a Stephen Jones hat that is heavily influenced by these. I love My Fair Lady and these simple pieces were a reminder of the dramatic effect these scenes first had for me and on my own burgeoning love of fashion (as well as reminding me how much I love Hepburn and Andrews of course!)

The Creation section is arranged in sections according to technique. Among my favourite headpieces here were a beautifully coloured feather hat from the 1800s, a twenties felt cloche and some knitted pieces.

Monitors dotted between the glass cases show charming short films, mainly from the thirties and forties, consisting of smiling ladies wearing an assortment of charming hats that in most cases look more avant garde than many contemporary designs.
Jones' iconic Union Jack hat is filmed being meticulously handmade by the head milliner of his studio and is mesmerising. I loved watching a beautiful, unique piece being made by hand, and felt a kind of legitimising link to my pledge to promote handmade.
The only downside to Hats is that it's just too popular, meaning that we could hardly move in front of the cabinets and some pieces were hard to catch a glimpse of.

The exhibition is closing this weekend, if you are in town and haven't yet seen it, I urge you to get your hat on and try to get along.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

bagging a bargain

This week I found a fab Irish handknitted Aran sweater for two pounds in a north London charity shop. I periodically do a trawl through all my local shops looking for pure wool sweaters to cut up, felt, embroider and make into toys. Although I am on a crusade to buy handmade and support crafts people, I also love to find a bargain in a second hand shop, as it is participating in recycling and giving to charity at the same time.
This jumper is my best buy since a fab red cashmere number I picked up for five pounds a few years ago. It is a child size, meaning unfortunately I can't wear it, so it won't be too heartbreaking to cut it up and hand sew it lovingly into something just as fabulous. I now just have to decide what to make out of the lovely cabled fabric; initial thoughts are a wooly sheep or a cosy cushion. Will post a picture here when I get round to using it.

Friday, 22 May 2009

pretty pins

After coveting these lovely tights from the wonderful Liberty I finally laid my hands on a pair today and couldn't wait to take them for a test run.
They are screenprinted by hand in Scotland by a lovely company called Bebaroque, who also use embroidery on their hosiery, as well as entire leg patterning. I chose the simple Dorothy pattern as I don't think any gal can wear enough bows, even a quite un-girly one like me! I was torn between the tights and the little pastel socks, but the gold foil on these swung it for me - very glitzy eveningwear without being too 'bling'. I also thought I would get loads of wear from them as they are quite subtle compared to some of Bebaroque's other fabulous designs.

The branding on the packaging is great; lovely illustrations in the style of the swirly Bebaroque prints, and a sweet description of the company's ethos, all laid out simply and beautifully.

I am on a personal quest to buy less fast fashion, but instead invest in fewer pieces of more beautifully crafted, durable garments, preferably where possible buying handmade and/or British, with a view to supporting small businesses and craftspeople like myself at the same time as the dwindling British textiles industry. Bebaroque certainly tick all the boxes, and are even British textiles graduates like myself, so I am already feeling less hypocritcal in my fashion choices. Plus, all of this is a great excuse to spend money on gorgeous things!
I think I shall be looking for more small designer makers to support and showcase here...all purely in the name of research of course, so please let me know of others you think I may like.
Now all I have to do is make sure I don't ladder my Dorothys...

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

university of string

My first attempt at journalism has been serialised in issues 13 and 14 of Yarn Forward (issue 14 out now!). The articles give an overview of my textiles education and how to go about getting one for yourself, as well as featuring Editor Shannon's interesting interviews with other knitting designers who have taken different textiles courses.

I, of course, think it is great but that may have more to do with the lovely Shannon's editing..only time will tell, as I hopefully get more words in print! I really enjoy writing and loved researching and producing the piece, so will have to get started on some similar articles. I have some in mind, will let you know if they get published!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

tricot fran├žais

A very busy and emotional few weeks have seen a lack of posting from me, but I have finally found a free moment to sit down and write about a lovely weekend spent knitting and crocheting in the beautiful South of France. I was there to give a craft workshop weekend with Les Soeurs Anglaises and had a thoroughly lovely time. The house is stunning, and we had the good fortune to be there in the spring time with the garden in full colourful bloom.

More indulgent pictures of the grounds can be found here.
The course was great fun, with hilarious anecdotes regarding learning French shared, new stitches and techniques learned and great food served aplenty to fuel the creativity. Katie and Mike, who own the house and run the courses, provided fabulous culinary delights, including fresh salad leaves from their veggie patch, all accompanied by fantastic wines from Mike's wine cellar.
Here are just a few of the lovely necklaces, beads, flowers and other delights created over the weekend.

We also made a trip to the local yarn shop, where I liberated some of this fab rug yarn from the top shelf - the 'vendeur' told us nobody had bought any for 25 years, whereby I promptly purchased a lovely sicky green colour for one euro. I shall of course never use it, he probably saw me coming a mile off, but I think it's a fair price to pay for such a lovely sixties label. It shall be proudly going on show somewhere in my studio room!

the only downside to the weekend was that it did drizzle on and off over Saturday and Sunday, but when the sun came out, it was absolutely glorious. Les Soeurs Anglaises have some dance classes coming up, as well as some with Julie Arkell, so keep an eye out on their site for those, and some more next year, it is well worth the trip.

Monday, 4 May 2009

susie's furry cardi

Last week, I posted a fantastic retro pattern which was once owned and knitted by my aunty Susie. I am very sad to have to post that she passed away this morning.
Sue was a warm hearted, kind and generous woman, and this, as every knitter knows, was well demonstrated by her passion for knitting so many of these wonderful garments for her nearest and dearest. I am so glad that she entrusted the patterns she had worked so closely with, pored over and lovingly recreated over the years to me just before she died, as now when I knit something from one of them I will still feel close to her. One of the things I love most about the process of knitting and giving hand knitted gifts is their capacity to evoke feelings of nostalgia, family, tradition and love, and Susie was a fantastic example of this. In a lovely continuation of this family tradition, her grandaughters are four of the most beautiful girls you have ever seen and, just as I wore Sue's knits as a child, two of them will be modelling my garments in my next book, something I am sure Sue would have taken pleasure from and would have loved to knit herself. For this reason, I wish she could have seen the final book; her experienced knitter's approval of the patterns would make me very happy.

One of the stitches that I most enjoy knitting is a fur, or loopy stitch, and I still maintain that the reason for this is that I was exposed to it from a very young age by a series of fantastic cardis, which I am sure many of you will have had a version of if you were a child of the 70s or 80s. This cute and cuddly cardigan, which I had in pink, blue and white at differing ages, was affectionately made for me by my aunt Sue, as well as for many other cousins, nieces and other distant members of our loving and 'close-knit' family throughout that time. Her version of the pattern is so well thumbed that it is torn into two, but sometime ago I found the same pattern in a charity shop and bought it instantly as it reminded me of Susie, and of that well-loved cardigan. So here is that pattern, my very small tribute to a wonderful, beautiful lady who fought hard throughout her life and was loved fiercely and loyally by all those who knew her. We will miss you, Susie. x

Friday, 1 May 2009

daisy chain

New pattern for sale on Ravelry; I have finally gotten round to writing up a pattern for one of my necklaces! I thought it was the perfect time of year to post it, with all the lovely flowers out in force in my garden, and it is a perfect precursor to the collection of patterns I am launching very soon.

Hope you like it.